I’m a political junkie. Every day I read The Washington Post and The New York Times, among other media giants, with great interest and appreciation. I understand and value the great writing, thoughtful analysis, logic and reasoning. And the fact checking. Especially the fact checking.
Given that I live in Iowa, The Des Moines Register, The Chicago Tribune and The Kansas City Star are among my favorites as well. I also try to catch a variety of broadcast news organizations over the course of the evening. Being ADD, Twitter presents an endless buffet of delightful and distracting news commentary and stories.
I’m learning that President Donald Trump continues to offend, make missteps, court World War III and faces isolation in the face of the worst presidential polling in history. That he faces possible impeachment, or removal from office when his cabinet invokes Section 25 of the Constitution. I learn that the Republican Party is in disarray and may never recover. In this chaos commentators are speculating just how many Democrats will gain seats in the House and Senate and if it will be enough to take over one or both bodies of Congress in 2018. Possible Democratic candidates for president are being vetted for 2020.
This is delusional.
Here in conservative rural America, Trump is ascendant.
I was loafing in a booth at the coffee shop Saturday morning, and my friend Mark said something like, “Hey Bob, if you want to understand why rural conservatives like Trump, watch the speech he gave at the Values Voters Summit.”
I replied, “Just tell me why,” not wanting to tell Mark I can hardly stand to watch or listen to Trump, I despise him so. I thought, how perfectly ironic and hypocritical of the religious right to have a man without honor or dignity preach about “values.”
“No, you have to watch it first. Then we’ll talk,” he said.
I tried to remember what I had read about the speech. The only thing I could recall was that Trump had made either a mistake, or misspoke and had referred to the Governor of Puerto as the president. The media had been all over the gaffe. What a clown, a buffoon Trump is! More evidence of his ignorance, his lack of preparation, basic courtesy, and more proof of how unfit he is for office. While certainly more was reported on his speech, that is what I remembered.
While I couldn’t bring myself to actually watch Trump give his speech, I read the transcript as provided by the White House.
Looking only at the written word, and putting Trump’s arrogant off-script comments aside, it was a beautiful speech. Powerful. Inspirational. Brilliant even.
That’s not what I took from the reporting — which may well be the fault of my selective reading and viewing — but if President Barack Obama had given a similar speech I know much of the media would have lauded it, leaving me with a completely different perspective of the speech, and likely of the man.
Doing my best to understand how my conservative friends might read Trump’s speech, I read it again. Only this time, I contrasted Trump’s messaging with how rural conservatives often view Democratic messaging. Here goes.
Trump began by saying we are a nation of believers and that “together we are strengthened and sustained by the power of prayer.” Democrats want prayer out of the public sphere.
Trump called the Las Vegas shooting a “horrific mass murder” and an “act of pure evil.” Democrats blame the guns and want to take yours away.
Trump honored the heroes of Las Vegas, including the police officers and other first responders. Democrats elevate thugs and view our protectors in blue with disdain.
Trump quotes scripture. Democrats ridicule those who do.
Trump stresses unity. Democrats divide American society into victims and oppressors.
Trump says, “We love our country.” Obama went on an international apology tour.
Trump says, “We cherish the sacred dignity of every human life.” Democrats murder babies.
Trump says, “We believe in strong families.” Democratic policies pull them apart.
Trump says, “We are proud of our history.” Democrats tear down monuments.
Trump says, “We respect our great American flag.” Democrats take a knee.
I could go on. There’s much, much more in Trump’s speech that’s fodder for conservative thought.
So, big media, keep up the great writing, thoughtful analysis, logic and reasoning. And fact checking. But, remember here in Trumplandia, you won’t change any minds. The cultural fissure is too deep, and relates to fundamentally different worldviews with respect to freedom and the nature of man.
Given so, Trump’s sinking poll numbers are irrelevant. My conservative friends will vote for a fence post before they vote for a Democrat.
Keep preaching to the choir, coastal media elites. Continue to predict the downfall of Trump in 2020 if not before, and great victories for Democrats in congressional races in 2018, and we’ll see if it works. That’s my hope. I fear, however, such stories will only lead to complacency among the Democratic electorate.
My conservative friends remain “Trump-strong.” And remember, we in the hinterland have the Electoral College by the throat.
I’ll be seeing my friend Mark again soon. I’m not looking forward to it.
Robert Leonard is an anthropologist and hosts a public affairs program for KNIA/KRLS radio in Knoxville/Pella, Iowa.